On the Cusp of Greatness

I recently had to rate myself as an alpine skier for an upcoming ski camp. I hate strongly dislike rating myself. For running, there’s something tangible and objective (if not aspirational) to provide. Skiing? Unless you’re watching someone ski, it’s just a bunch of words, from the skier’s perspective, and they’re almost always wrong.

At least once a year, a thread on TheSkiDiva.com discussion forum pops up where someone asks how to describe her skiing abilities to acquaintances, ski shops, potential instructors, and anyone else who asks. Usually, the discussion starts with a complaint that people with a Y chromosome are prone to exaggerate, and the discussion then becomes peppered with words like beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate (low and high), advanced (also low and high), and expert, with lots of blurring in between. At some point, someone will write that she’s an expert in one part of the country but advanced in another. Then another person will assert that a skier of a particular level skis a certain type of terrain whereas a skier of a higher level skis another type of terrain. Somewhere along the way, someone will point out that she doesn’t want to ski that type of terrain, so why should a higher skill level mean that you ski that type of terrain? From there it gets even messier. Cliff Notes version: One person’s intermediate is someone else’s advanced. Blech. I can’t deal.

Right before I went out to the Pacific Northwest in mid-2010, I thought long and hard about my skiing ability and how I’d express it to people who didn’t know me but with whom I’d want to ski, or at the very least, to those who would be mounting and adjusting my bindings.

I came up with “On the cusp of greatness.

It’s intentionally vague and open to interpretation. 

I realize this is not particularly helpful when placing me in an ability level for a camp, for instance, but the guys in the ski shop in the middle of August loved it. Then again, I was a woman in a ski shop in the middle of August in the northern hemisphere. Never mind.

What does it mean to be a skier on the cusp of greatness? Well, first it means that I know and ski with a ton of awesome skiers who rip. They’re the great skiers.

To be on the cusp means that – having spent my formative years skiing on the Ice East Coast – I tragically suck in powder. It means I can pick my way done a lot of terrain, but it’s not always pretty, and at least one person has been known to pull out her lunch and eat it while waiting for me. It means that sometimes on steeper terrain my turns have no plot (no middle). It means that I occasionally brace myself with my downhill leg, rather than bend it. It means that I have to repeat to myself “Only one first turn” at the top of a run and on every turn so that I link my turns on steeper terrain. It means that I totally bite it on some groomers at the end of the day, when I’m not paying attention. 

It means that I’m often pleasantly surprised when I see a photo or video of me skiing.

It also means that even though I’ve been assured by numerous people that I’m the right level for this camp, I’m still nervous about it, especially because at the rate the northeast ski season is going, my first day this season could be the day right before camp.

It means that if I ever have a season consisting of more than 20 days, I might get over the cusp and be one step closer to being great at skiing. (Or, maybe it’s just someone else’s idea of mediocre….)

On Gratitude

I’ve been fighting a doozy of a cold for a week. It’s like a foul weather system caught up in a stationary front: I don’t feel any better than I did immediately after my fever broke last Wednesday, but I haven’t worsened, either. I’m just hacking up a lung and sniffling. Please don’t tell me this is the new normal.

I’ve sort of freaked out about how much this cold would set back my fitness. Taking a deep breath is difficult. I haven’t run since two Mondays ago. I’ve canceled 4 runs, 3 yoga classes (including tonight) and 1 Fuse class that I was going to take. I also canceled one yoga class that I was going to assist. Nevertheless, I dragged my type A-minus self to a reformer class on Thursday, and on Saturday, I did back-to-back sessions of yoga and Fuse…and then promptly took a 2-hour nap to recover from the latter – gah. I get it. You win this round, cold.

I don’t often blog about yoga because everyone’s experience is different, and there is no “right” or “wrong” experience in yoga. But being bedridden for the first time in a long while gave me time to slow down and reminded me that I don’t always practice what I teach. Earlier this month, I taught a couple of community yoga classes at Quiet Mind, and during the most recent class, I invited (yogis invite fellow practitioners to explore stuff, one reason being that teachers consider themselves as guides, and the real teacher resides within the practitioner…but, enough about philosophy) the class to consider something that they’re grateful for, and use that as their intention for that particular class. Gratitude, not surprisingly, is a common theme among teachers in November. Anyway, despite inviting students to set an intention for their practice related to gratitude, I haven’t really thought much about what it is that I’m grateful for. [Confession: while you’re setting your intention, I’m meditating on putting together a cohesive class, or at least hoping you don’t notice if it’s not cohesive. I’ve already given up on distinguishing between left and right.]

Well, now I have considered what I’m grateful for:

My health and that of those around me. Sure, this cold sucks, but it’ll be gone in another week (hopefully). However, without my health, everything else would be a lot more challenging. And, for what it’s worth, my family’s health is pretty decent, too. Yay!

Family. Yes, mine drives me nuts. But, on some level, they get me. My brother has been known to humor me by skiing with me in the Catskills. Back in the 80s, I did my first sun salutation with my mom. And this year, for the first time, my dad saw me run a road race. This year, I also got to spend time with some family members whom I haven’t seen since the early 90s, including a cousin who lived less than an hour away from me when I was in Seattle.

Friends. It’s been such a treat to go hiking, skiing (man, some of the old skiing posts are just lame), and just driving across the country with pals, old and new.

This American Thanksgiving, I’m grateful that I’ll be able to schlep my sick self onto an Amtrak train to go see my family. I’ll worry about the precipitous decline in my fitness another day.

~~ Namaste ~~

Half Marathon Contemplations…

Sometime after the Army 10-Miler and while stressing out about Tough Mudder and otherwise waiting for ski season to start, I started seriously contemplating doing a half marathon in 2012. 13.1 is a new distance for me and probably the longest I’ll go because I can’t fathom training for a full marathon without a personal chef and an extra 4 hours in the day. I probably would also need a clone. Major props to everyone who can organize their lives to make marathon training work!
My half marathon musings looked something like this (half baked, I know):

So, what exactly was I thinking? A few things:
1.  I want to run a well-organized race. I can’t impress this point enough. I once ran a short-distance race that piggybacked onto the longer distance marquee race, and ever since then, I’ve dubbed the race I ran the ignored step-brother (or sister) of the marquee race. At one point, the road race went cross country. Not kidding.

2.  Training can’t interfere with ski season. I have a distorted view of the duration of my ski season; nevertheless, this knocks out races from December to May if I want at least 8 weeks to build mileage and speed.

3.  I really, really want to finish in under 2 hours, or within spitting distance of 2 hours, mostly because I don’t feel like moving non-stop for much more than 2 hours. This is going to be HARD WORK for me. I need a course that can give me the best shot at doing this, like a flat course (aka, not B’more).
4.  Along those lines, I am such a heat wimp that I need cool weather conditions, too. This tosses us into late October/November if in the mid-Atlantic. 
5.  Small-ish race. My longer distance races have been Bay to Breakers and a few Army 10-Milers. I’d like to try a race that has, I dunno, less than 30,000 registrants. Preferably under 10,000.

6.  Supportive crowd. Even if it’s new, in Annapolis, I may be able to glom onto my friend Wendy’s family. Philly’s established, but even still, I may be able to con my former roommate Jen into forming a cheer squad. Richmond…well, I’d have to rely on it being an established race.
7.  Transportation. Sure, I have a car. But who wants to drive a few hours after racing 13.1 miles? Is Amtrak a feasible post-race transportation option? It sure would be nice to sit back and let the mind wander…
On a whim earlier this week, I went over to the Richmond website, curious as to whether a date had been set for next year’s half/full marathon. November 10, 2012. Then I discovered that the entry fee for the half was a ridiculous $45 through Thursday. Seriously. That’s a steal.
I consulted my calendar. Don’t laugh. I’m actually already booked for both the weekend right before and right after November 10, 2012.
I consulted the masses.

I consulted the Magic 8 Ball.

I registered for the 2012 McDonald’s Richmond Half Marathon on November 10, 2012.

I told the Transporter, whom I drove across the country with in 2010, that I had registered. She registered, too.

Let the wild rumpus begin!

Tuesday Thoughts

My apologies for appearing as though I’ve fallen off the edge of the Earth (it’s flat, right?) this month. After mocking my pals for bailing on Tough Mudder because Life caught up with them, Life caught up with me. Good thing I don’t rely on blogging for a livelihood, otherwise I’d be eating Saltines to stay alive.
But, during my online absence, I met a handful of tweeters and bloggers in real life, like Justin of Justin Runs DC (we work in the same building), Chloe of 321delish (she took a job at possibly my most favorite place in the world to buy yoga pants, Athleta, which just opened a store in Georgetown), and Amy of, well, her namesake website/blog (given than I [heart] skiing, I was utterly delighted to meet her). I also bumped into Emily of Sweat Once a Day about a gazillion times at Fuse Pilates, where she continues to amaze me with how hardcore she is even while nursing a broken foot. It’s always a treat to meet the person behind the blog/tweets!
Speaking of Fuse, I’ve been doing a little blogging for them as one of their ambassadors. This means that I’m there a lot, not that I necessarily have Emily’s abs any actual core strength to write home about! Other than the ability to do a few Roll Ups, of course. Never fear, though, they’re telling me that I’ll be able to knock out a few more Roll Ups by the end of the year.
More importantly, I got in some early season ski stoke, starting with a screening of this year’s WME flick and the purchase of a new Dakine ski pack (which was naturally followed by an immediate test packing of said ski pack). I also planned some ski trips and got some info on a camp that I’ve been eyeing for the past year: the Next Level Freeskiing Camp at Squaw with pros Ingrid Backstrom and Jessica Sobolowski-Quinn in early January. I didn’t attend last year because I was hitting the Roxy All-Star Snow Camp up at Whistler that weekend, which was my first all-women’s camp and an awesome experience. I’m psyched to go to the Squaw camp this year but nervous as to whether I’m a solid enough skier…gah, the perpetual challenge of rating oneself as a skier!
Finally, I started sketching out some running goals for next year that I’m pretty excited about….stay tuned!